Of the many wonders of our existence, time and free will rank at the top of the list. What is most important is how we use them.
The theme here is not that we should choose to make better use of our time, but rather how the Great Falls Public School District and the Great Falls City Commission use both time and choice to their advantage, and often not, for those they are supposed to serve.
Self-preservation and advancement are strong motivators, which can result in cronyism, hiding information, and corruption. Even in a small community such as ours, these acts go unnoticed to most citizens except a few, or those directly affected. In the absence of investigative journalism, the problem is even more hidden and accountability is non-existent.
For those who may not know how our elected officials and administrators use time and free will to their advantage, let’s take a little trip back into history.
Recently, when several sitting city commissioners were found to have rewarded their friends and families in the award of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds their stated defenses went something like this:
“Great Falls is a small community and everyone knows someone.”
“But my wife works in a different part of the organization than the part which was applying for the grant.”
And so on. These public officials were admonished by the Department of Housing and Urban Development – the federal agency responsible for administering the CDBG program, and local funds were withdrawn. The Mayor’s response was – “let’s just move on”.
In other words, time is on our side and people will forget. Yes, time can be a huge ally.
Time was also used as an ally by the Great Falls Public School District when the Building and Grounds Department was rocked by charges that the supervisor was using district resources to his own benefit. An investigation ensued, the supervisor resigned under pressure, and the case was closed and sealed to protect the individual’s privacy.
How about the taxpayer’s right to know if a crime was committed? Was the whole affair just swept under the rug with the hope that with the passing of time, the public will forget? Was the district’s attitude – let’s just move on?
When a school board trustee sits on a private company’s board of directors with another board member who she votes to award a school contract to, not once but twice, is that serving herself, or helping a friend? But what the heck, let’s just move on, right?
And what about the fact that the current superintendent, Tammy Lacey, participated in the architectural selection process for both new elementary schools totaling over $30M, while her ex-husband is employed by the architectural firm selected?
How about the locker room hazing incident referred to as “power gobbling” at Great Falls High School, which was reported as a sexual assault and not reported to the police for almost two months after the student’s family first brought it to the staff’s attention?
Information obtained from the student’s family indicate that at least two members of the Great Falls High counseling staff were advised of the incident on September 15, 2011 and yet the Great Falls Police Department was not notified until October 30, 2011.
According to the Montana ACLU website a school becomes legally responsible when the school’s response to harassment “is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.”
Was a 45 day delay in reporting the assault “clearly unreasonable”? You be the judge.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website on the “Mandatory Reporting Requirements: Children Montana” page states that reports are required to be made promptly.
One of the two GFHS staff members seemingly involved in the non-reporting of the sexual assault was later promoted to principal at Great Falls High, and is now about to be hired as the new assistant superintendent of secondary education for the school district.
Of course the district’s investigation report is sealed due to attorney-client privilege. What are they hiding?
Obviously, both the City Commissioners and the school district are familiar with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones’ song – “Time is on My Side”, with the Bob Marley refrain – “Every Little Thing is Going to be Alright”.